I have a list of customers. They are( from least to to most important): Regular customer, VIP customer, Small company, Medium company, Large company. I list them in this manner:

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I would like to know what background colors for every row so User of the system will associate it correctly in his/her mind.

It should be transparent for sure but I don't know what colors to choose. Shades of grey?

  • I feel like there is something obvious that is missing aside from colours. Why not also have a "Customer type" column that has the text of each of your options. I feel like colours are good for grouping but not necessarily conveying meaning.
    – rooby
    Oct 3, 2014 at 8:38

2 Answers 2


You are probably asking for colors to communicate too much information. Also, having five different background colors for the rows in your table will be too messy and hard to read.

I would suggest something else, like:

  • A star system from one to five stars.
  • Different icons to represent different types of customers.

I like the second option, because it potentially conveys more information than just "which customer is most important". You could, for example, have an outline of a person for a regular customer, a person with a star for a VIP customer, and then three sizes of buildings for the corporate customers.

  • 6
    Also the problem with color blindness Oct 2, 2014 at 13:19
  • Which will then probably lead to the OP asking what colors to make the icons...
    – PlasmaHH
    Oct 2, 2014 at 14:20
  • 2
    Assigning colors to Icons is fine - because it enhances the visual range of information delivered. So long as each icon is distinct enough, color blind users will also be able to receive the same information detail. Oct 2, 2014 at 16:37
  • I like the second idea best, because what if in the future you have 15 different type of customers? I doubt the usefulness of a 15 star rating :P.
    – TMH
    Oct 3, 2014 at 10:22

I'm faced with that problem every day - both in creating new displays and updating old ones. From experience once you get past two colors you have a mess that is very hard to digest - UNLESS the colors are RARELY used. By rarely I mean that most screens do not have a color and only rarely are there more than 2 or 3 colored (whatever combination) rows on a screen at one time.

Other than that dan1111 hit the nail on the head. If all rows are to be differentiated and users are not filtering data to see only one type at a time then non-intrusive but easily differentiated icons are the way to go.

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